Take a moment and reflect on something: growing up, did you ever have a non-white teacher in elementary school? Middle school? High school? How about a male elementary school teacher? Now think: have you ever had a black male teacher? If you answered yes to any of those questions, that’s phenomenal! But it’s also relatively rare. This lack of diversity is troubling as it is proven that students benefit from learning from people who look like them or who might have similar life experiences to them. This is not to say that minority students should only learn from minority teachers, but that there needs to be better representation in the profession.
A few weekends ago I was able to attend the PSEA MLT (Minority Leadership Training) Conference hosted in Pittsburgh and I was able to discuss this topic with some minority teachers. It was a weekend filled with professional development opportunities for members of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, and though I am only a student now working toward my degree, I learned a lot to apply toward my job in the future. There’s still some struggle and confusion on how we can accomplish the task of inviting more minorities to become good teachers, but we all agree that the first step is to talk about it! There are far too many diverse students to have such a small number of diverse educators.
Here are some things that I feel could help increase the number of minorities in the field of education:
Understand that teaching CAN be for you!
If you identify as a minority or non-white, consider this profession. Teaching often gets a bad reputation and that causes so many potential educators to shy away from it and do something else. To be fair, the money isn’t quite all there, but the experiences you can get from teaching can outweigh that easily! Touching the lives of thousands of young people and having a direct hand in shaping the future of the world is amazing; plus the arts and crafts you get to do sometimes too is a bonus.
It’s not always easy being an educator because our voices are often overheard and people sometimes think that we don’t ‘do’ much, but I can assure you, that if your heart’s in it, you will influence the next couple generations of engineers, entrepreneurs, politicians, caregivers, media molders, and more! I think it’s time that everyone regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or race should get a chance at being part of this revolutionary change. If we can teach the beauty of and respect for diversity to people at a young age, the world can become a warmer friendlier place.
Become a mentor
If you are considering becoming an educator now, think about mentoring minority high school students to encourage them to join the profession too! Recruitment is a huge part of opening people’s eyes to becoming teachers, and so is retainment. Many minorities who enter college aiming to be teachers switch majors because they aren’t getting the right supports to maneuver the degree in culturally appropriate avenues. We often have to blaze our own path, but in doing so,we can also make the path clearer for more people to follow us on it. Consider joining or founding a mentorship program with local high school students. You can help make the journey to becoming a teacher easier for them, which in turn makes for more minority teachers overall!
Even if you are not planning to become a teacher, be supportive of family members and friends who are interested in it. They’re probably going to struggle, because again, despite the charm of arts and crafts and story time, teaching is HARD. Don’t let them get discouraged by the difficulty of the task or the lack of representation with their colleagues. If they want to be good teachers, they’ll need a bit of help to persevere. Be that person to give them some hope that they are doing the right thing. The students need them.
Read, watch, educate – A list of resources
By now, I hope I made some convincing points. Here are some more places you can go to learn some information on your own. We need to be seen and teaching is a great profession for that. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Articles and Readings